Oracle Station, December 3303
As soon as she woke Kira knew that something was very wrong, the first thing she noticed was that the lights were out. her clock, the control console even the access panel and not just in her room but out of the window in the compound beyond, then came the muted sound of warning klaxons in the far distance, but there was something else, something that just didn't feel right but what? As she leapt from her bed the answer hit her as she almost collided with her own ceiling. gravity. The stations hab ring was supposed to rotate at a speed that gave Earth normal gravity, clearly it had slowed significantly why? She reached the window, struggling slightly as she became accustomed to the new environment and looked out, all across the hab ring was darkness, street lights were out, no buildings were illuminated, even the great neon advertising hoardings were dark, only a handful of red warning lights flashed, then she looked up, out of the duraglass canopy enfolding the hab ring into space beyond and her blood froze in her veins. A shape, skeletal yet flower like, its petals illuminated by a baleful red glow flew down, bolts of energy shooting from its midsection at the main body of the station, as she watched horrors truck a second, then a third swept past also firing into the rear of the station, a thousand thoughts went through her mind, them? Here? where were the stations guns? Where were the system defence ships? Stannis, Corrin and a myriad disjointedly more spinning through her brain. Then the explosions began. She felt rather than heard the first, from somewhere toward the back of the station, no sound reached her through the void but the shaking left her in no doubt that it was serious, what remaining artificial light that remained went dark. Then, in the distance, the sounds of panic began, screaming, voices shouting orders to remain calm, glass shattering, loud cracks, gunfire?
Think Kira! She told herself, imposing her will on the rising urge to panic, what to do? Where's the safest place on the station? The docking bay she thought, reason imposing itself on her internal chaos. Yes, proofed against terrorist attack like ships opening fire inside the tube or packed with explosives and sent in as flying bombs, if any part of the station can survive an attack it would be there, it was also the only place help could arrive or an evacuation be conducted. she needed to get dressed, gravity's down though... the flightsuit has magnoots she remembered, and she was wearing it when they brought her here, it's still in the wardrobe. The dressed quickly, climbing into the skintight suit and throwing a jacket and pair of loose fitting trousers over the top before heading outside into the compound. The guards had vanished, but the gates were locked, eleven feet high like the fence. What now? Kira thought, she hadn't climbed a fence since she was a child and though she kept herself very much in shape she very much doubted her sixty four year old body could match what her twelve year old self had taken for granted. Idiot! She thought as realisation hit her, she quickly disengaged her magboots and made short work of getting over the fence. Beyond the base was a scene of utter panic as a tide of humanity rushed headlong for the lift-shafts all with the same thought she had, to get to a ship and get off the station, while uniformed Aegis security men tried in vain to bring some order to the almost complete chaos, shouting unheeded orders and firing ignored shots into the air, Kira's first thought was to stay away from the throng, to take a longer route but one which might be easier to travel faster but the sight of gangs in the distance, looting now empty homes and businesses while brandishing weapons and newly acquired bottles of liquor convinced her, reluctantly that she may actually be safer with the crowd. Everybody, even Kira had stopped looking into the space beyond so intent were they on making their escape when a flash of light and vast explosion changed everything.
Kira had never experienced a Remlok mask deploy in an emergency before, she felt a momentary swish of movement from around her collar and in less than a second the helmet was in place, the suit responding to the explosive decompression as an entire section of the hab ring about a kilometre distant was literally blown away, her magboots increased their grip holding her to the floor as all around her people were sucked out into the void beyond the very blood in their veins boiling inside them as they were dragged out into space. Kira screamed despite herself at the horror of the spectacle before her, she was hit hard in the back and again on the shoulder by human bodies as they were dragged out into the black beyond, an old man seeming to glare reproachfully at her as his eyes burst from his skull in twin fountains of blood. Kira closed her eyes and crouched down, huddling up into a ball partly for self preservation, partly to shut out the horror.
The next thing she knew was her mask retracting into her suit, how long she had been there, in an almost fetal position she did not know but she doubted it could have been that long as she vaguely remembered Stannis telling her the suits only had about thirty minutes of oxygen. Gingerly she stood up and opened her eyes, the hum and whirr of emergency generators clearly audible and an emergency force-field sealing the massive section of the ring that was just no longer there. Once again she imposed order on her flailing mind, forcing calm on herself, yes she was way out of her comfort zone or experience but she would adapt and she would survive, she reconsidered her plan and decided it was still viable, now probably even more so, the docking bay might be the only place left with any survivors, it also, she thought for the first time, might offer the prospect of freedom. The lift shaft was a long walk but in the now almost zero gravity an easy one, please don't let them be sealed she repeated to herself every other step, her rational brain telling her that of course they would not be and sure enough at the entrance to the lifts normally used by thousands of people every day stood four armed soldiers all in tactical armour. A surge of fear flashed through her, wold they recognise her? arrest her? What then? Her common sense slapped down the idea, given what had just happened one relatively minor prisoner was hardly going to register.
"The lifts are out Miss," the Corporal said as she approached, " there's only the maintenance shaft that's safe to use, If you want the docking bay You'll have to climb."
"All the way?" Kira asked, a sense of dread and despair settling on her
"'Fraid so Miss."
I can't turn back now she thought to herself, the Thargoid attack seemed to be over for now but who knew when they might come back to finish the job, she followed one of the soldiers to the shaft and looked down, hundreds of meters off into the distance, thousands of metallic rungs on a seemingly never ending ladder.
"Least you got this far miss," the soldier said trying to sound sympathetic, "most people on this section would love to have your problem."
Contrary to her fears the climb was much easier than she had expected, the lack of gravity meaning she could pull herself along the shaft with almost minimal effort, the further she went though the hotter it became, pleasantly warm at first but getting hotter and hotter, she felt her suit compensate and her body temperature stabilise but her exposed face became more and more uncomfortable, almost painful, she thought about deploying her helmet, then remembered she had only so much oxygen left. Finally, her hands raw and her face bleeding she arrived at the door to the docking tube, two more soldiers stood guard. neither in armour their faces a mix of weariness, dread and hopelessness.
"Through here Miss, you'll be processed as soon as we can." the man said opening the door and ushering her into what seemed like hell itself.
The heat was stifling, even the floor itself was hot and the sheer number of people cramped into what had been a storage silo for cargo only made the atmosphere all but unbearable, then the smell hit, human sweat and excrement, fumes from the fires apparently raging uncontrollable in the docking bay itself made Kira nearly gag. A near riot was taking place in the corner, a unit of soldiers had entered the cavernous warehouse with supplies and a mob were pressing them, making ready to storm the door to whatever imagined safety lay beyond it, the troops took two paces backwards and levelled their rifles while behind them an officer very deliberately fired three shots into the air.
"Remain calm." He said in a loud, commanding voice. "Ships are on the way to evacuate the station, you will all be rescued but it is vital you remain calm, the biggest danger now is panic, we have food and medical..."
"Behold the heathen," a wild looking man all but screamed, cutting the officer off as he leapt onto a cargo pod, "let us seize this place and burn it in a living offering to the Far God! The Far God comes in all his glory let us..." The would be prophets words ended abruptly as the officer shot him through the head.
"We have food and mefical supplies here, they will be distributed by my men and the sick and injured will be collected for treatment. As soon as we can we will get you off this station, the Pilots Federation have deployed a rescue ship we just need transports to get you there, until them comply with any orders given you in full and immediately."
Kira spent the worst night, if indeed it was night, she had ever experienced in that stinking, fetid warehouse, food and water were in terribly short supply, the 'lavatory' was nothing more than an overflowing collection of buckets in an agreed corner of the room and order among the people gathered trembled on a knife edge of chaos. Some believing this to be their last few hours of life coupled with strangers, others drank or drugged themselves insensible. Gangs roamed the space stealing food or valuables, others demanded other things which they took whether the victim resisted or not with too few soldiers to keep order, but while that terrible place brought out the worst in some it produced the best in others, men and women shared their food with the weak, the sick, the young and old, others banded together to keep the gangs at bay and so order, just about held. Every so often people would be counted through the cordon of soldiers and ushered through the door into, they assumed, the docking bay itself.
"I 'ear there ain't no ships coming and they're just spacing people to save rations." A man next to Kira hissed as a group were taken through and they neared the front of what had become a sort of queue .
"Don't be ridiculous." Kira snapped.
"What I 'ear is the bugs are everywhere in this system and no one can get through to us."
"And just how would you hear that given we've no coms?"
"Just what I 'ears."
"Another five," the officer said standing up, "You, you, you," he pointed to Kira, "you and you."
"Best you 'opes I'm wrong." the man said with a nasty smile as Kira was ushered through the cordon of soldiers.
"Down that corridor, you'll be picked up as soon as there's space on a ship." The officer said as Kira passed him.
"Do you have any idea how long it will take?" Kira asked.
"Sorry no," the officer replied wearily, "look I shouldn't tell you this but if you've got the credits you might be able to persuade one of the independent pilots will take you. Some of them are greedy bastards like that."
Kira and the others were ushered into another smaller room, one of the loading bays just below the hangars, it was if anything even hotter in here, but a good deal less cramped. Here they waited, and waited, and waited, sometimes one or a group of people being called and led away seemingly at random and regardless of how long they had been waiting.
"How do I get on a ship Sweetie?" Kira asked the woman who seemed to be in charge.
"Give me five hundred credits, I let you through that door, that gets you into the pilots waiting room and you can see if you can make a deal with one of them to get you out of here."
"We were told ships were coming."
"They are, wait in line if you want I'm sure you'll get off sooner or later, but if you want it to be sooner I can.... help."
"I don't have any credit packs on me," Kira replied, "but I do have a little Jewellery, this neck chain is worth at least a thousand, let me through and its yours." The woman looked at the golden chain then nodded to her colleague and Kira was shown through into the pilots lounge, there were chairs here, food and drink, basic stuff but beyond luxurious after the holding areas. As she was looking a young man with a cocksure look in his eye swaggered over.
"Can I help you little lady?"
Kira bridled at his tone and whole demeanour, but this wasn't the time.
"How much to get me out of here?"
"Thirty K's little Missy, all up front."
"I can't give you anything upfront, but I can give you sixty when we get to the Pilots Fed ship."
"Make it eighty and you got a deal Honey."
"Agreed, but we leave now and you don't ever call me 'Honey' again."